THE PATTERNS OF ALIENATION BUILT UP IN THE 1930s ENCOURAGED THE PROCESS of cultural adaptation that gave California its Okie subculture. Regional cultural differences that in other circumstances had meant little took on expanded significance in this one. Although some Southwesterners consciously abandoned distinguishing characteristics, others fell back on the cultural resources of their upbringing, creating community systems laced with values and institutions of Southwestern origin. The remaining chapters will concentrate on the portion of the migrant group who followed this second course. The primary locus of this subculture was the San Joaquin Valley, but in weakened form it also developed in the metropolitan areas, especially during the 1940s when new waves of migrants created for the first time substantial enclaves of Southwesterners in the cities.
Some definitions are needed. The term subculture is quite elastic, which is useful in this case. A subculture is a social formation with a distinctive set of norms and values that offers members a significant sense of identity and locus for social interaction. Subcultures come in many forms, based on ethnicity, class, religion, political ideology, peer group, even consumer interests. But the Okie subculture does not fit neatly into any one of these categories. Depending upon where we look and also what time periods we examine, the formation seems to take on different shapes. 1
Social science has never supplied the right tools for categorizing the